Report: VPN use shows huge global usage of BBC iPlayer

VPN’s have changed the way many people access their content these days. No longer is it a requirement that you wait for when a local broadcaster deems it the right time for a hit show to be made available here. An internet connection and a VPN can gain you access to pretty much anything you want now. And while it’s someone problematic for local rights holders, it has created a bit of a conundrum for the BBC.

In the UK, the BBC is funded out of a license fee but a new study from GlobalWebIndex has shown that around 65 million people outside of the UK are accessing the content. With 75% of those people also accessing and paying for content services like Netflix and Hulu, there is now the suggestion that the BBC iPlayer may become a subscription service.

Imagine what that means for the BBC and their international licensees.

“The implications for iPlayer are stark,” said Jason Mander, head of trends at GlobalWebIndex, writing in the report.

“However, rather than seeing this as a threat, there’s much good news here for the BBC.”

The report highlighted that 75% of the 65 million already pay for subscription services like Netflix or Hulu, so there was “clear potential” for the BBC to create “new revenue streams”.

“If even a relatively small proportion users could be converted into paid users, the additional revenue it could create for the BBC would be significant.”

From the BBC side, having 50 million subscribers paying £5 a month would pocket them £3bn a year. Currently the broadcaster receives about £5bn a year so this would be a significant shot in the arm and should result in even more and even better content.

The BBC only earns about £1bn from sales of their content to international broadcasters. By launching a global subscription service to iPlayer, the potential to earn three times the revenue by a direct to viewers relationship is a compelling argument. Understandably, broadcasters wouldn’t be happy and while it may result in reduced costs for the same content, the BBC would easily offset those with its new revenue model.

I would suggest that while it may only be a discussion at this point, it’s not a case of if, but when this happens.

Would you subscribe to BBC’s iPlayer if it was available here?

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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    Yes Definitely – this is the new businiess model for TV

    • Simon Green

      I disagree. Subscribing to only one channel / content provider is not the solution. It’s better to syndicate the content to a global player like Netflix or Hulu. A lot of ABC (AU) recent back catalog is on Netflix, and I am watching many shows that way. I wouldn’t subscribe to a global ABC (AU) only streaming service, definitely at a price point of $5 per month, when Netflix is less than twice that price.

      • David Clark

        I have something good to share with all of you which is better than it as you can get a VPN tool for 1 year subscription which is low in cost compared to only 1 subscribing channel. You can access all the channels like Netflix through VPN and Hulu. Also their are many platforms you can access which are expensive to use.

      • TVSOS

        Maybe – but BBC also streams live events through Iplayer as well – like multiple stages of the Glastonbury festival, that was the reason I got it.

      • Jas

        When you say syndicate do you mean at the same time as it is shown on the other service? Or do you mean like the back catalog content and if you do mean back catalog content what time frame after it is shown in the primary service?

  • Mike

    Would be interesting to pay for and see the report. Claims 65m users worldwide accessed BBC iplayer with 38m from China, and the next highest country being India at 7.9m.
    And it claims that 75% of the global 65m paid for Netflix, Hulu and the like. Even if all of the non-Chinese viewers subscribed to a paid service then more than 55% of the Chinese viewers also subscribed to a paid service.
    Do those statistics meet your opinion of a sniff test? But I suppose it is possible….

  • Mike

    BTW, before global iplayer was ceased Australians were required to pay a subscription price of GBP3.80 per month.
    The subscription service didnt seem to attract the same number of subscribers using the VPN-based services to bypass geoblocks.
    And the US networks threatened to dump BBC America if the global iplayer was offered there.